A big hit for the holiday

Bridesburg Men’s Softball All-Star game catching on as Fourth of July tradition

Batter up: The Red and Blue teams face off in the annual Bridesburg Men’s Softball All-Star Game. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN MCBRIDE

By Melissa Komar

While fireworks are synonymous with Fourth of July, it’s a ball game that is becoming a tradition to kick off the holiday weekend for some residents in the River Wards.
Featuring players from the Bridesburg Recreation Center Men’s Softball League, the second annual Bridesburg Men’s Softball All-Star Game was played on June 28.
The league has been in existence for decades, but the all-star game fell by the wayside for years until Bridesburg Rec Center supervisor, league director and all-star game announcer John McBride revived the tradition last year.
“It kicks off the Fourth of July weekend and makes grown men feel like children again,” McBride said. “These guys put in an honest day’s work to provide for their families. And for them to be able to go back even for an hour and run on the field and play ball like they are an 11-year-old kid again is really something special.”
One of those guys is Dan Wolfinger.
Wolfinger has played in the men’s league since 1990 and took over as director about seven years ago and now co-directs the league with McBride.
This season, he is coach of the Post Office Café team, and two of his sons play in the league.
Because his team is tied for first in the standings, he managed one of the two teams — the winning Blue Team — in the all-star game.
Although winning is sweet, the all-star game is more about having fun.
“The regular games get pretty intense during the week at the rec because no one wants to lose,” Wolfinger said, “so the all-star game is a ‘have fun night.’ It’s a way to get everyone together. We all go to work every day, and it’s an opportunity to get together and have fun.”
Fun was front and center for the game.
Players received a red or blue T-shirt — a nod to the holiday — compliments of umpire assignor Greg Disbot and were introduced one by one to the crowd of about three dozen adoring fans.
Warm-up was accompanied by theme music from The Natural and ball game-appropriate music including Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir — former Philadelphia Phillie Chase Utley’s walk-up song — and the Rocky theme song was played in between half innings.
“It’s just like Citizens Bank Park. We had the players come up to the first base line and tip their hats to the crowd,” McBride said. “It’s all about creating the big scale, ballpark atmosphere at the local ballpark, Bridesburg Rec Center.”
Players are selected by the coaches, and the number of players each team can enter is based on the overall team standings two weeks prior to the game.
This year, the first and second ranked teams selected five players, the third and fourth ranked teams selected four players, the fifth and sixth ranked teams selected three and the seventh ranked team selected two.

Brad Sharkey plays left field for Port Richmond Pub and was on the Blue Team for the All-Star game.
“The All-Star game was a great event,” he said. “It was a perfect night to get together with the best of our league and have a good time playing ball.”
In addition to doing a great job running the league, Dan Wolfinger and John McBride “do a great job putting the event together,” an event that “is a good tradition and good for the league,” according to Sharkey.

“It brings excitement to the league. Guys who played last year were looking forward to it this season, and hopefully we can do it again next year,” Wolfinger said.
McBride hopes to keep the tradition going to get the older crowd in the community involved at the rec.
“I don’t think many people realize playgrounds serve an adult population,” McBride said. “The league is a way to involve the softball program in the Fourth of July celebration in the community. It shows that adult programs are important in the community.”
The Blue Team was victorious over the Red Team in this year’s all-star game, 22–6.